Reacting to the publication of the Audit Office’s Report on Planning in Northern Ireland, NILGA Chief Executive, Alison Allen said:
“NILGA welcomes and acknowledges the Audit Office’s Report on Planning in Northern Ireland. An in depth and thorough review like this of our planning system is both necessary in highlighting what can be done better as well as acknowledging what is being done well. Since the transfer of planning powers to local government in 2015, our 11 local councils have taken a collaborative approach to delivering for their communities, their local economies, and their constituents. However, this report serves to highlight many of the issues that local government has been raising since 2015, issues which local government are working with our partners to improve and resolve.
“NILGA believes that the current system, as designed, builds in more bureaucracy than similar systems in other jurisdictions, unnecessarily in our view. It is also more complex, involving more organisations due to the fragmentation of public sector delivery in NI. We want to see this improved and we are working with our partners and stakeholders in both central government and the private sector to achieve this.
“We welcome the fact that the Audit Office has highlighted the significant underfunding of the system and the need for the Department and councils to work in partnership to ensure that the planning system is financially sustainable in the longer term. We also welcome the recognition that councils’ ability to perform effectively can be constrained by issues beyond their direct control, including that adequate resources were not provided to allow councils to deliver all the functions for which they are responsible.
“NILGA will be working with the Department for Infrastructure to refine and improve the current system on an ongoing basis, including legislative change where necessary. However, by giving councils the powers, finances, and resources to fully deliver this service, we can resolve many of the issues outlined in this report and improve the quality and consistency of planning delivery across Northern Ireland.”